Liturgy

Visionary Vapor: Starting Lent with Michael Gungor and The Liturgists

Photo by Andrew William Smith

Guests received eucharist at The Liturgists concert. Photo by Andrew William Smith

It was a busy weekend on the eve of Lent for fans of spirited singer and spiritually-minded musician Michael Gungor. If you were not on the Gungor or Michael Gungor Twitter feed over the first two days of March, you might have missed the news about a new band, a new record, and a new mini-tour.

As the band called Gungor takes a short break from touring in support of its sonically and lyrically adventurous album I Am Mountain, the family business has reinvented itself with the proverbial “side project” so common with musical visionaries who cannot contain their creative output to just one brand name or band name.

But The Liturgists — a collective that includes Michael’s wife Lisa, brother David, and a host of other supporting musicians and collaborators — are not just another band, and the brand is “the work of the people.” The band’s Vapor EP is a warm and experimental worship text that includes a song, a spoken-word invocation and incantation, and a guided centering prayer meditation. On the group’s Ash Wednesday-week mini-tour, all the shows are free by RSVP and are not really shows as at all — not as indie-consumers even in the contemporary Christian scene have come to expect.

Cutting-Edge Orthodoxy

MOST MEDIA ACCOUNTS of Nadia Bolz-Weber focus on her tattoos. She has the liturgical year tattooed on one arm, from creation to Pentecost; another features Lazarus still wrapped, but very much alive. She got that one while struggling to write a sermon on Jesus’ raised friend.

The tattoos on a 6’1” woman with a taste for punk, a bad-girl past, and a gay-inclusive church—House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver—make for easy picking for secular media. You may have caught Bolz-Weber’s book Pastrix on the New York Times bestseller list. Wise, self-aware, hipster Christian celebrities have a market for books, and she’s tapped it.

In contrast to much of the superficial media coverage, what’s most interesting about Bolz-Weber is her deep traditionalism. “Secular media doesn’t understand the difference between orthodox and conservative,” she tells me through a toothy smile, blue-green eyes blazing over thick-rimmed ’50s-era glasses.

“House,” as the community calls itself, is almost medieval in its liturgy. There are no instruments, just a cappella chant and pillows for kneelers at a prayer station. The Eucharist is served weekly. Eastern Orthodox iconography drapes the church’s interior, stoles, website, and literature. Latin hymns fill the communion liturgy on the Sunday evening I attend. Bolz-Weber is proud to be using Franz Schubert’s setting for the Mass.

This is not high church fussiness; it is liturgical and churchly orthodoxy for scruffy hipsters. Bolz-Weber explains that many of her fellow social progressives want to jettison the Bible and Jesus in order to be more inclusive. “But why should we jettison the only things we have going for us?” she asks.

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GRAPHIC: Hipster Faith

Like the following graphic may attest, Nadia Bolz-Weber's church, House for All Sinners and Saints, is not your typical Lutheran church. Instead "House," as the community refers to itself, combines ancient liturgy, Eastern Orthodox iconography, and traditional hymns with a pierced and heavily tattooed hipster pastor, events like the annual "Blessing of the Bicycles," and a "queer-inclusive" congregation.

You can read more about Nadia Bolz-Weber and the House for All Sinners and Saints in Jason Byassee's April 2014 Sojourners cover article "Cutting-Edge Orthodoxy." The article highlights Nadia's unconventional faith journey and introduces readers to the church that is reimagining traditional practices for the Millennial generation.  

Created by Kara Lofton for Sojourners

Kara Lofton is editorial/online assistant at Sojourners.

Images from Shutterstock.com (from top left to right): Praying hands in black background, Jesus Cervantes; Church with the Holy Spirit and water, Irisska; Rock with cross abstract grunge image, jcjgphotography; Smiling female friends with dog on old loading dock, CREATISTA; Bicycle, onairda; A Catholic nun wears a crucifix, Ryan Rodrick Beiler; Catholic liturgy and prayer beads, Marijus Auruskevicius; Denver, Colorado skyline, Teri Virbickis; Young bearded hipster man, Anchiy; Handsome young man with tattoo, Halfpoint; Stained glass church window, joroma; Byzantine 11th century painting, Brigida Soriano; Burning candle in a church, Nykonchuk Oleksii; Ancient Orthodox icon, Oleg Golovnev; Happy hipster girl, Alliance; Handsome young African-American man, Malyugin; Portrait of two hipster girls, Dragon Images

 

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Church of England's Alternative Baptism Liturgy Drops Reference to Devil

A priest prepares for a baptism. Photo courtesy of DainaFalk via Shutterstock

The Church of England has been accused of “dumbing down” the baptism service following the introduction of an alternative liturgy in which parents and godparents need not repent of their “sins” or reject “the devil.”

In the traditional version of the service, parents and godparents are asked: “Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?” and “Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbor?”

In the alternative version, now being tested in 400 churches, parents are instead asked to “reject evil and all its many forms and all its empty promises.”

The Bible as Icon

Old tattered Bible spine, Janaka Dharmasena / Shutterstock.com

Old tattered Bible spine, Janaka Dharmasena / Shutterstock.com

With six children in a Southern Baptist family in the 1970s, we could easily have had a dozen Bibles in the house. There was the giant, gray Family Bible with the embossed cover that resided on the bottom shelf of the living room, which nobody ever read. And there was a scattering of those palm-sized New Testament and Psalms around the place, like silverfish in a drawer — always white or pale green, with ersatz gold leafing that would flake off under the prodding of a fingernail.

There was a Novum Testamentum from when my oldest sister took Latin in college, sandwiched on a shelf. I also always liked the ones from the Gideons (do the Gideons even still exist?) that had translations of John 3:16 in the back. My favorite: Sinhalese.

The vast majority, though, were what could be termed “presentation Bibles.” Invariably from Broadman Press (headquartered in Nashville, the Baptist Vatican), either slick shoe-polish black or steak-slab red “bonded leather” (Ooh, baby!), these had been awarded as part of Sunday school or Scripture memorization schemes, and always had about them the whiff of bribery, with the name of the person to whom the Bible was “dedicated” written in ostentatious cursive in the front. “The Words of Christ Are in Red,” it was noted, and in the back was a sheaf of biblical maps, the topography of the Exodus, and Paul’s missionary journeys rendered in Sweet Tart pink and blue.

Survey Shows Catholic Priests Don’t Like Mass Changes

RNS photo by Sally Morrow.

Congregants pray during Catholic mass at St. Therese Little Flower parish in Kansas City, Mo. RNS photo by Sally Morrow.

Nothing upsets the folks in the pews as much as changing the liturgy that they’re accustomed to, and that seemed likely to be the case when the Vatican ordered revisions to the familiar prayers and rubrics of the Catholic Mass.

But now, more than a year after the changes took effect in U.S. parishes, a survey of American priests shows that they are more disturbed by the innovations than their flocks.

In fact, the poll, conducted by researchers at St. John’s University School of Theology-Seminary in Collegeville, Minn., showed that almost 60 percent of priests surveyed did not like the new Roman Missal, as the liturgical book for the Mass is known, while about 40 percent approve.

Atheists Find a Sunday-Morning Connection with Other Nonbelievers

Courtesy of says-it.com

A fake church sign for the Houston Oasis group. Courtesy of says-it.com

HOUSTON — Sunday mornings at Houston Oasis may look and feel of a church, but there’s no cross, Bible, hymnal, or stained glass depictions of Jesus. There’s also nary a trace of  doctrine, dogma, or theology.

But the 80 or so attendees at this new weekly gathering for nonbelievers come for many of the same reasons that others pack churches in this heavily Christian corner of the Bible Belt — a sense of community and an uplifting message that will help them tackle the challenges of the coming week, and, maybe, the rest of their lives.

“Just because you don’t believe in God does not mean you do not need to get together in community and draw strength from that,” said Mike Aus, a onetime Lutheran pastor who is now an atheist and founder of Houston Oasis.

“We are open to any message about life as long as no dogmatic claims are made.”

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